Hammock camping - first trip

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by ianyonok, Mar 23, 2016.

  1. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    With a desire to get closer to nature, I bought some new equipment and headed off on a camping trip.

    First stop was on the south bank of the Kok river, NE of Chiang Rai and west of Wiang Chiang Rung. It came up on the GPS as "Ancient ruins".


    Prajao Gun Na is an ancient chedi that has been almost completely enveloped in a banyan tree.


    Difficult to actually see any sign of the chedi, like it is slowly being eaten.



    The bees are a sign of good luck and lucky themselves, as they are left in peace.



    Then on to the first camp site at Waeng Khaew waterfall, in the northern tip of Lampang province, NW of Phayao.


    I had fitted a pair of Givi panniers on the '59 Thunderbird to carry all the required kit.

    This is a Hennessy Jungle Expedition Asym Zip hammock. A modern design with several patents.


    A key feature is that it is sewn together asymmetrically, so that you lie in it at about 20 degrees off the axis of the hammock support lines. In theory this means that you can sleep almost flat.  The rain tarp is also attached to the hammock support lines, making it pretty simple to sling and take down. The bug netting is integral and has a double full zip along one side, so you can use the hammock as a swinging chair too.


    I had also purchased a lightweight, low volume Sea to Summit sleeping bag, bag liner and inflatable mattress, together with an Exped inflatable pillow. This kit packs up in surprisingly small bags.


    Another purchase was a flat pack Petromax Hobo stove.


    A great design that concentrates the heat and burns 4" long "logs". Made of stainless steel, it plugs together to form a miniature wood burning stove.


    Wiang Khaew is a beautiful waterfall, not visited by tourists much, as it is out of the way. I was charged 30 Baht to stay the night in the park.


    I saw a couple of locals when I arrived but no-one else camping at this time of year.



    From the bottom, you see about half the waterfall. A trail takes you up to a halfway point and small pool for dipping, although too cold for me in March.


    The upper cataract gets more difficult to access


    So, then it was on to the nature trail.


    The National Parks of Thailand are very well organised and they gave me brochure about the route



    A great trail; open dry forest at the top and thick jungle near the bottom.


    Plenty of wonderful old giants of the forest to admire



    After breaking camp and heading south on highway 1, came upon a memorial, right next to the highway.


    Captain Jensen was a military officer who came to Thailand to train the police and was killed in a fracas in 1902 at the age of 24.


    Next campsite was west of Phrae, in the Suan Hin Maharat National Park and in amongst the rocks

    This is the hammock packed in it's waterproof "snakeskins". This system keeps the hammock clean and off the ground when you are setting it up and taking it down.


    This garden of rock giants is unusual due to their size. This could be "lion rock"


    Then there was "elephant rock"


    and "camel rock"





    There was no charge for staying in this park. Heading NE, I went up to Khun Sathan National Park and the campsite at the top of the mountain.


    March is a quiet time, so again, no-one around. A stunning location, but no proper views due to the hazy air.


    No charge here either, to stay the night. It was cold and damn windy in the night so I had to get up and take the tarp down before it thrashed itself to bits. Decided the walk up the mountain can wait for another day when the air is clear. So, next day, moved on up through Nan and stopped at the Tham Sakoen National Park, halfway along the 1148.


    This was a really fantastic spot and all to myself. Again, no charge to stay the night and use the bathrooms.


    The nice thing about the hammock is that you can sling it almost anywhere. Don't need flat ground if a pair of trees are around... which they usually are in this country. But you can also pitch it on the ground if you want to, using heavy sticks or can tie an end to the bike.


    I will be returning to this park, at a clearer time of year. What a view you would get. To get to this campsite, had to negotiate quite a steep rough stony dirt road, but no problem for the tough old Thunderbird.


    The traditional enamel coffee pot and cup are fine, but a bit heavy, so will get an aluminium replacement sometime.


    No shortage of dry wood at this time of year. Rainy season could be more challenging....

    Sausage sandwiches for dinner, using this clever little Swedish firefork. Just a bit of twisted wire, that fits on a stick.


    Another peaceful night was had in the forest


    Next morning, it was off to look around


    Checking the cave out was a must.



    It's a good 400m hike up and the route is clearly marked.



    Plenty of shade from the morning sun, so not difficult.


    Bees nests. These forest bees don't sting and make honey in little tube nests.




    Handrails are being put in.


    After about 40 minutes, reached the cave.


    Yep, it is pretty big. The main chanber is maybe 50m across inside and 30m deep.




    There are a couple of vents that allow light in from the main rock face.


    I had also purchased a new Fenix high power torch for this trip, which turned out to be most useful for exploring caves.



    After scrambling around for an hour, I headed back down.


    Some rope rails to assist the climb.


    You can make out one of the vents above and left of the main entrance.



    Next was the nature trail in this park. March is a great time of year for flowering trees and butterflies.



    More giants of the forest. A very old dipterocarp.




    This was a good 8" in diameter.


    Then came to the "Golden Cave".


    The light spots reflected in the quartz crystals appeared to be floating in space.

    ....... more to come.....
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  3. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    The Tham Sakoen nature trail had many things to see, including the huge tree "Dton Prachao Hap Ong" and the "Golden Cave".


    The "Golden cave" in the middle of the jungle nature trail was very interesting. Not a good photo (camera low battery and no flash). But this actually looked like a fist trying to hold a handful of golden crystals.


    A large and many legged cave bug.


    In another place there were silver crystals.



    Dton Prachao Hap Ong was impossible to photograph, as it was so big.



    There was also a clear water spring pond that never dries up, with catfish in.


    Back to camp, pack up and ready to head off.


    Stopped in Chiang Kham for a quick look at the beautiful teak wood Wat Nantaram.......


    .... and a visit to the Carrot coffee shop.


    Probably the most upmarket coffee shop in the town


    ..... and I needed something different from cup noodles and sausages..



    Then it was on north to Phusang waterfall


    which is getting very popular now in the high season.



    There is an easy nature trail here too, leading to the hot spring which feeds the river and makes the waterfall warm.



    Just north of the waterfall, I stayed in the Suan ChomNam resort


    This resort has it's own waterfall






    900 Baht for a room here.


    I paid 300 Baht to sling my hammock in the garden and get a hot water shower.


    On the way home, it was Silver Mileage Anniversary. Not a great mileage on a modern bike. But this is just the mileage since I rebuilt the bike in 2000 (and had the original speedo restored) and nearly all of those miles done in the north, in the last 5 years. Judging by the state of the bike when I bought in '93 it had probably done over 100k miles before that, since it was built in 1958.


    So, the first motorbike hammock camping trip was a great success. It takes some getting used to, sleeping in a swinging nylon bag. I struggled a bit with keeping the sleeping bag and mattress together in the right place, but reckon I'll get used to it. March is still cold at night in a National Park or up a mountain. Although the hammock has a double bottom, to prevent mozzie bites, I was getting a cold back at times. For the cool weather I will get a thermal insulator pad to go in the hammock.

    Poor sleep, poor food, ants, lonely, cold showers......... but the locations and the environments are just fantastic. If you want to get away from towns, people, traffic, noise, concrete and heat, this is just the best experience. I can't wait to go again...... Back to nature..... and wonderful it is....
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  4. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    I find the fly sheet makes it a lot hotter to sleep..  Usually only put it up if reasonable chance or rain.


  5. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Well, in March it's not really hot in the north. I put the tarp up in "porch" mode a couple of times, tie-ing off to trees rather than pegged to the ground, which increases the air flow. But also needed to get up in the night on occasions and put it back on the peg again. I think as it is such a thin insulation, you feel temperature changes instantly. So, early evenings, I might doze off lie-ing on top of the sleeping bag with the mozzie net open, but by 03:00 in the morning, I was zipped in (which stops the wind a bit) and snuggled up inside the sleeping bag as it was cold. The fly sheet also keeps leaves and falling small branches off the hammock. It also depends if you are a "cold sleeper" as I am, or a "hot sleeper". Have to remember to always check the "widowmaker" large branches high up in the trees, when selecting the trees to sling on... hahaha...

    Great fun though eh?
  6. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Ever since we did that ride with Jack and the Thai guys.. I have been a ride and camp fan. ;)

    Each to their own on the fly sheet.. I have just changed hammocks too. I like the siam hammock. But do feel a little too enclosed.

    That may have contributed to the heat experience too.

    Couple of weeks ago camping and warned the guys. 3 4 am you will be freezing.  They couldn't believe how cold it was early in the morning.

    Cheers Brian
  7. rcm273

    rcm273 Ol'Timer

    But I can only see one Honda Wave ?

    Great report !

    Just out of interest, where did you buy the hammock ?

    I think I would prefer to go down the tent route and try and find a lighter tents with shorter poles. I'm riding dirt tracks down here, through jungles with thick undergrowth making it difficult to 'sling' a hammock.

    Agreed on the food .. Packet noodles aren't happening - I'm testing out little foil sachets of Rozo curry from Big C at the moment which are OK with some fresh cooked rice.
  8. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Sorry, didn't say that very well. My trip was in low season, so Phusang was quiet. A few years ago, there wasn't much there. But now, a big restaurant area, security guard telling you where to park and several shops selling the usual tourist stuff. In the high season, the waterfall area is busy and lots of families sitting on the grass, eating of course, while kids play in the river. Good for them, but not my scene.

    I ordered the hammock direct from Hennessy online, posted to a mate in the States who was coming over. But they post worldwide.

    I wonder about tents too, for comfort reasons. Would I sleep better on the ground? I bought a regular size hammock, which is rated for people up to 6ft. Being 6ft myself, possibly I should have bought the large version, but of course a bigger item to carry. Some mornings I woke up feeling really cosy and snug, but no long periods of sleep.

    The hammock can be slung almost anywhere, regardless of uneven or sloping terrain, over rocky ground or on sandy beaches etc. I have a mate who uses one for long distance cycling trips. He often puts his hammock on the ground. Pops the front wheel off the bicycle and sets up with the one hammock line over the standing bicycle, tied to a Y shaped guy line and pegged down. The other end line then goes over the standing wheel to a Y guy line. So,the hammock ridgeline is taut, but the hammock bag is sitting on the ground and no trees needed. So, you can use the hammock without needing trees to support your weight. You could do the same thing with decent size branches. You could also put the hammock on the ground and tie off to the bike one side and clumps of bamboo on the other. Haven't tried this yet, but the theory sounds good.... So, you could say, a hammock is more versatile than a tent. But Sea to Summit do a nice looking minimalist tent.

    Thanks for the food tip. I have a phobia for supermarkets but may need to brave one..... I see on Youtube, in the US, they have packets of ready meals that you just pour hot water in. That would be ideal if we could find them in this part of the world. But maybe there are ready meals in 7-11 that would work without microwave.
  9. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    I bought the karana hammock at Central sports . Pretty happy with it.

    Much prefer a hammock over a tent. More comfortable sleep.

    Off the ground from the creepy crawlies. You can spray the cords with repellent to keep the ants etc off.

    We are all riding dirt and sleeping in the jungle. 95% on each trip are using hammocks


  10. rcm273

    rcm273 Ol'Timer

    Yes, I'm flying to Bangkok on Monday - Decathlon do cheap hammocks.

    I thought I would be troubled by bugs the other week, but no, I was surprised.

    Each to their own really, I think I'm a tent person.

    Ianyonok You should check out youtube, food for ultralight backpacking, and the like - like I say, its hipster these days - there are dozens of videos on what to carry, what food to buy, what you can make, etc. I will post an article on Thai supermarket finds somewhere .. Any freeze-dried microwave meal can be steamed or rehydrated.

    I know what you mean about supermarket foil packs, what is in them if they can sit on a shelf for a year or so, unrefrigerated. If I can avoid poor quality meat, MSG & Palm oil for a few days - I can make up with it with preservatives from a foil packet for a weekends camp and survive.

    TOPS is quite a good place to pick up imported packets, this was 45B or something imported from Australia. You could even make up your own individual packets, weigh out the dried pasta, add part of a pack of dried pasta sauce, then just add water.

  11. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    It's about 20 years since I last went camping and lots to learn for me. A few questions if I may...
    [list type=decimal]
    [*]Are you carrying cooking gear or do you do "no cook" trips to save weight/space in the luggage?
    [*]What are those loop-over pannier bags you use? A recall a post about them, but doubt I could find it. I want to get set up for camping with the KLX. Soft luggage would seem better than hard luggage for serious offroad trips.
    [*]Do you use any water purification system or just carry all your drinking water and buy as you go?
    [*]Hygiene is a question.... do you try to camp near rivers? I see Sea to Summit do a "pocket shower". I have a "pocket towel" which is marvellous, tiny thing, does the job and dries super quick.
    [*]Any tips for the best ways of dumping in the forest? Not a silly question, we all have to do it.
    [/list type=decimal]
  12. Hua Hin

    Hua Hin Ol'Timer

    Brian, where is central sports?
  13. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Forget the proper name. But in most central department stores three is a big sports shop.
  14. rcm273

    rcm273 Ol'Timer

    lol .. You mean - Super Sports

    Karana have a website, you can order direct .. Im amazed ! They do one with a mosi-net for 1300B  - It seems well spec'd, theres a double layer so you can put an insulating pad in between ( 300B on eBay ). The tarp is a further 1000B, thats 2500B inc. EMS. It may not be a modern asymmetrical design, but still ...

    How heavy is it Brian ?



    Decathlon do a beach style thing


    Then there is 'Mosquito hammocks' jungle outfit but thats 5000B+


    I found water an issue, even though I was carrying a fair bit on my last adventure and even along side the second biggest lake in Malaysia, I still ran out. I'm researching this at the moment.

    This looks like my next purchase - https://sawyer.com/products/sawyer-mini-filter/
  15. rcm273

    rcm273 Ol'Timer

    Have you checked this guy ?

    His videos are interesting and quite relevant.

  16. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Seems lots of choice of hammocks out there. The Hennessy wasn't cheap, but the advantage of lying almost flat was recommended and they include tarp, webbing straps and snakeskins

    I was looking at this site for water; http://www.cascadedesigns.com/msr/water/treatment/category but needs more research.

    Thanks for the junglecraft link, will be checking that site some more.
  17. rcm273

    rcm273 Ol'Timer

    I'm no expert on hammocks - but I believe there are hammocks made from ripstop and there are hammocks like yours - next generation, along with those grand trunk hammocks that are the same compact size and weight as a 10B pack of tissues.

    I checked the water pump link, I'm thinking, they all do the same thing, its a fine ceramic filter inside, the pump is just increased weight - with the squeeze variety you just push the water through yourself instead of a pump. I'm thinking to myself that it would be a compact system, wrap the squeeze-bag around the filter, slide the straw down the middle. No need for the cleaning syringe .. there are loads of hacks for the system on youtube.

    Everything would be good until the squeeze bag bursts ;D

    Have you tried TOPS for imported packet food ? I bought this, quite cheap at 45B .. I would prepare the right amount of powdered milk in a sealed pack, reconstitute the milk in a pan and throw this on top.


    Can you post a picture of your straps ? Are they just 1" webbing nylon with a loop on each end ?

    I ordered that set-up from Karana last night :D
  18. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Nice report Ian

    You've got me a bit on this one


    Was this at or near the old ancient city of Wiang Lo?

    Chiang Mai - Nan explorer ride.

    Wiang Lo Ancient Ruins

    if not, then I need to go take a look.

    Pleased to see you mention the Captain Jensen Memorial. That really is something special - a farang (Dane) out there once upon a time, fighting / leading royalist Thai forces against the naughty Shans.

    For those interested, there's a bit more info on GTR here

    The Capt Hans Jensen Memorial

    It looks too as if you took in some of the best asphalt biking roads in the North




    how do you rate R1216 the Khun Satan road against the R1148 Sakoen road?

    I reckon R1216 is one seriously over looked road for a brilliant ride.
  19. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer


    Prachao Gua Na (better English spelling) is in Amphoe Chiang Rung (I think where you have Ban Lao marked on the GTR map, which I believe should really be marked as "Chiang Rung"), Chiang Rai province, on the 1173, north of Wiang Chai. The chedi is at; 19deg 58.239'N 99deg 57.930'E. It is at a significant location where the road meets the river. I think there is more history in the area. Wat Wiang Chiang Rung, a few klms SE appears to have some old ruins inside the temple area. So, Yes, this area needs checking out more......

    The Capt Jensen Memorial is most unusual and an interesting bit of history.

    I have been over the 1216 many times. It feels more remote than the 1148 and less of a sports riding road but still great fun, just a little slower. Quite a few Hmong villages over the top and lots of strawberry fields up there now. When you get over the mountain heading east there is one point where you come round a corner and see a magnificent vista across the valleys. I always have to stop there, just to take it in.

    The 1148 has (or had) an unusual tarmac surface with large air pockets. Much of it has been resurfaced now with a more regular looking black tarmac finish, but still good.  It is probably a faster road with a little more traffic. Must say, riding my Triumph cafe racer, pulling out of some of those bends in 3rd gear, with the pushrod twin engine at 3000 revs, with the open megas bellowing is.... well..... life doesn't get much better......  haha...
  20. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer


    The webbing straps that came with the hammock are 1mm thick and 1 1/2" wide x 42" long. Just a loop substantially sewn on the end. I used them on single trees of 6" diameter, wrapping round a couple of times and also large trees they didn't go all the way round, but no problem. Seems like they are a good compromise size for most situations. Also light and small enough.

    See; http://hennessyhammock.com/collections/accessories for pics.

    I see Hennessy also sell the Sawyer mini water filter you mentioned. It does look like the smallest, easiest and best option for water. May have to get one of those. I reckon I needed about 2 litres of water a day for the campsite. Plus drinking water and electrolyte drinks on the road and hiking trails.

    Hennessy also gave me the rain collectors that clip on the fly sheet. Will have to try those too once the rainy season gets going...... if I can deal with camping in the rainy season........ haha.. need a bigger tarp too......

    Someone told me some time ago, that you don't find leeches in limestone mountain areas.....  we'll find out...

    That food pack looks interesting. I'm nowhere near a city so would prefer something available in a 7-11. Ideally it would be a meal in a bag, that you just pour hot water in the bag, saving messing with a saucepan or frying pan. But I'm waiting for a 2 part billy and cup with handles to arrive, so after boiling water to make a brew, could use the billy to put food in for boiling/frying etc.

    Here's an article on camping meals; http://popupbackpacker.com/freezer-bag-cooking/

    I'm no cook and have no real interest in dehydating meals myself to carry. Now, where's the wife gone.....?

    What do you cook with? Hobo stove won't work in the rainy season...... maybe a coke can alcohol burner is the way to go. Youtube again.... Gas would be ideal but bottles a problem to get.
  21. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    You can buy ready to go meals in big c or villa.  You can sit them in boiling water or we just place them real close to the fire and let them heat up.  Eat straight out the packet.

    Carry some powdered Campbell soup add water, plus magi instant noodles.   You are good till the morning
  22. rcm273

    rcm273 Ol'Timer

    Thanks for the head-up I have a roll of 1" webbing, I will knock some up.

    These kind of stoves or theses are available on eBay ( also in Supersports )- you also need an adaptor, which allows you to use the aerosol type of butane gas.

    The gas cans are available in Big C, Amorn, Homepro, and probably other general hardware stores on the road.

    I have had a similar model which is slightly heavier ( for a bigger pot, not for camping ) for over a year, and I'm surprised how long it has lasted.

    Water boils really quickly, and the gas lasts forever. I usually pack a spare can thinking it will run out, but it never does.

    The dome-shaped gas canisters appear to be a little difficult to source in Thailand.

    I'm experimenting with cook sets too, they always seem to have an unwanted or undesirable element, such as a useless frying pan as a lid.

    Just as your phobia of supermarket meals, I have a phobia of boiling water for tea in a pot thats been used to cook tomato pasta the night before .. urgghh. So I like to carry a .8L kettle.
  23. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer


    Thanks, I've seen the "pocket rocket" tiny stoves, so will have to look for aerosol type butane gas. I'm out in the country, long way from a city and my phobia is supermarkets...... but will have to brave it and go to the big city one day....

    I think this camping malarkey also depends how you want to do it. Either as a stop-over just for sleep and food before riding on, or if you want to linger and enjoy exploring the area. I think I'm looking for the latter. In fact I have ordered a collapsible camping chair too as I'm no youngster.... (don't tell Brian.... hahaha).. But we're all limited by what we can carry.

    I'm going experiment taking a quantity of aluminium foil. Then many types of food, including easily available 7-11 microwave dishes or pre-cooked chicken etc. can be just transferred to and wrapped up in foil and thrown on a fire or hobo stove. That should work over a pot of boiling water on a small gas stove too.  That way of cooking, your pot for water is only for that.

    I bought one these too; http://www.lightmyfire.com/products/products/grandpas-firefork.aspx and used it for sausages and dim sum.
  24. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    I will share some pictures shortly. Food taken, pots coking stove, cup etc.

    Though I rarely take the cooking stove unless car camping.  Just make a fire.

    I thought you are younger than me Ian.... Who has been spreading these rumours.


  25. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    I doubt you are in your sixties Brian. But I can tell you, when you get there it doesn't always feel great.... hahaha..
  26. rcm273

    rcm273 Ol'Timer

    Yes, please do .. It's all interesting stuff, it's not like we access to the best camping supplies here - a bit of imagination is always required.

    I like the fork things, how do sausages travel ? My missus leaves them outside in the sun to go sour when she makes her Issan style ones.

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